NEWLY-crowned fans’ favourite Simon Francis finally ended speculation surrounding his Cherries future and then insisted his best years were still ahead of him.

Francis, the subject of two failed bids from Championship rivals Derby over the summer, yesterday committed himself to Cherries by signing a new three-year contract.

The 29-year-old has played a key role in the club’s success under Eddie Howe and capped a memorable campaign last season by winning the coveted Daily Echo-Micky Cave supporters’ player-of-the-year award.

His form prompted Derby to table two bids – believed to have been in the region of £250,000 and £500,000 – both of which were rejected by Cherries with the club steadfastly insisting Francis was not for sale.

Francis, who joined Cherries from Charlton for £25,000 in January 2012 following a brief loan spell at Dean Court, has missed just one league game since Howe returned to the club 22 months ago.

The dependable defender told the Daily Echo: “I can see the club going places sooner rather than later. At my age and at this stage of my career, hopefully, I have got the best years ahead of me and I am absolutely delighted they are going to be here.

“It has been a different summer for me with the interest from Derby. But the bids were never anywhere near what the club valued me at and that was absolutely fine.

"If the club valued me at a high price that must mean they rate me and wanted to keep me. I wanted to repay them by saying I wanted to stay and they offered me a new contract which I was delighted to sign.

“If I’m honest, I didn’t think the club would be where it is now when I first signed. I came here because I wanted to play games, I knew the manager at the time and I was out of favour at Charlton. I know there have been ups and downs on the management side but I have enjoyed every minute of it.

“Under the current manager, it has been a whirlwind of a time, both for me and the club.

“They have been the best two years of my career and I feel I have played some of the best football. Everyone has performed well and that has been reflected by how well we have done as a team.

“I am not going to rest on my laurels and settle for what I did last season. I want to kick on and I signed the new deal because I feel we can as a team and I can as a player.

"I don’t think I had anything to prove to other people last season but I wanted to prove to myself that I could play at this level. I also want to prove I can hopefully play higher and would be delighted if that was with Bournemouth.”